Descending pathways to premotor/motor centers and their cell groups of origin were studied by means of retrograde biocytin tracing experiments in the frog Discoglossus pictus and the plethodontid salamander Plethodon jordani, which differ remarkably in the structure and function of their feeding apparatus and their feeding strategy. Labeled neurons were found in 30 major cell groups located in the telencephalon, diencephalon, synencephalon, mesencephalon and rhombencephalon. The number and distribution of nuclei are very similar in both species. Furthermore, the descending pathways of these groups of neurons take the same courses inside the medulla oblongata. Axons of most nuclei descend either in the ventromedial or ventrolateral medulla oblongata, and it is concluded that the spatial arrangement of pathways is identical in the species studied. Bilateral electrical stimulation of the optic tectum of the plethodontid salamander Hydromantes italicus elicited strong discharges of short latencies in the hypoglossal nerve. In most hypoglossal motor neurons, excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) of short latencies followed paired shocks applied at intervals as short as 3 ms, but showed temporal and spatial facilitation, suggesting that the EPSPs include mono- as well as polysynaptic components. In the ventral white matter, orthodromic single units were found that are candidates for excitatory reticular interneurons. These properties of tectal descending pathways in salamanders strongly differ from those found in toads. Differences in feeding behavior and its control by the premotor/motor networks between the species investigated do not appear to result from anatomically altered input or from a different organization of descending pathways to these premotor/motor centers, but rather from differences in local properties of reticular premotor networks as well as from different effects of neuromodulatory systems.

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